This weekend our church is hosting a harvest party complete with bounce houses, food, games, and of course, candy. We've done this for several years now and have gotten some what good at planning the event. It doesn't take too long to put together anymore.
Even though we don't see too many wrinkles in our harvest party event, there are always things that happen at the last minute that can cause consternation if one allows themselves to be preoccupied with what might happen. People will commit to help and will not show up for various reasons. We will forget a piece of one of the games. Rain can complicate things. It's something every year.
Here is my secret to not getting too "worked up" about it: a focus on the Gospel! We host a fall event so people can have fun, YES! We also provide opportunities for our members to serve their community, one another, play with kids, see people they don't get to see normally, and so on. But mainly, the focus is on the Gospel!
We do this in several ways. We invite the Gideons to hand out orange Bibles. Every person is offered one and most receive one. We heard a report of a person coming to Christ at a different church last year through one of these Bibles. We have "booths" that serve as our "trunk or treat" areas. People give out Gospel tracts with candy. We ask our folks to purposely find people they do not know and talk to them about spiritual matters. We will be offering Good News For You! books to people on the way out. Also this year we bought a packet of Gospel tracts from livingwaters.com that are kid oriented and tell the Gospel using a cartoon. I plan on revealing the winners of the door prizes and presenting a Gospel presentation using this tract.
Remember that the missing helper, the bag of buns with mold, or a spill in the gym are minor issues that Satan would use to try to stop the church from sharing the Good News with lost neighbors. Think to yourself as you organize and participate in outreach events like this: what is important and why do you participate?
When I leave the house, I do my best to bring some fishing bait with me. Bait for the Christian is something you can leave with a non-believer, new Christian, or mature brother or sister in Christ. Sometimes it's a Gospel of John from ptl.org, a Gospel tract from livingwaters.com, but most of the time I use the Good News For You! (GNFY!) Bible study booklet. It's important to have bait with you for several reasons:
1. Bait helps keep your mind on Kingdom expansion; i.e. evangelism. When you keep bait close, you are reminded to share your faith.
2. Bait gives you a reason to talk about Christ with others. Often I'll say to the clerk at Wal-Mart, "Thanks for your smile today! Have you had any Good News?" They'll usually say "no." Smiling, I'll hand them a copy of Good News For You and 9/10 they'll smile back and thank me! I've had people ask for prayer, more books, and have seen others reading it as I'm leaving.
3. Bait is able to speak to them long after you've gone! Good bait like GNFY! is a full Gospel presentation and uses an indirect Bible study method in 7 lessons.
4. Bait can be a discipleship starter. There are many, many believers who've never been discipled, and therefore may be immature, stagnant, or even may be hurtful within their church body. When I share GNFY! with people and they tell me they are a believer, I try to follow up with questions like this:
"When you go to church on Sunday, where do you go?"
"Who is your pastor and what exciting things are you learning about?"
"What are you currently reading in scripture?"
"Have you ever had someone spend time weekly with you, showing you the importance of Bible study, prayer, etc?"
These quick and easy questions give me a good beginning point and often tell me what I need to know regarding their spiritual walk.
Most of the time (it's pretty close to true to say 100%, but not quite!) people have never been discipled and do not understand the importance of walking in holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) daily with the Lord. I try not to be pushy, but instead look for people the Lord may be sending me. GNFY! is a great beginning tool for non-believers and new believers alike! Give it a try as your "go to" bait!
I woke up today, spent time in God’s Word handwriting a portion of Matthew 27, and beginning a new prayer list. I was wrapped up in this when I realized I was almost late to take my son to school. While on the way I listened to a summary of last night’s final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I am somewhat disappointed in the American people, but not really. Not really because the vast majority of my fellow citizens are lost. They do not have a relationship with God through Christ. Jesus said in John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Not only are my fellow citizens apart from God, but they have the wrath of God upon them simply awaiting the day of judgment. That’s scary! As I listened to the political summary, I began to reflect upon our priorities as believers. I realized I was MOSTLY disappointed in believers. I know there are a plethora of reasons we are headed toward trouble, but I think one of the main ones is due to our misplaced priorities. We’ve misplaced our priorities so badly as Christians, I’m forced to think upon deeper issues:
• In order for people to continually think this way, are they even saved?
• How have we as a church missed communicating the absolute priority of discipleship; being a disciple and making disciples, evangelism included?
• When is Biblical preaching going to become commonplace rather than topical preaching that panders to societal demands and desires?
• When are believers going to stand for what the Bible teaches rather than what the “American Christian church culture” stands for?
• With our silence on teaching and acting upon Biblical precepts, are we helping to bring about the moral end of our great nation?
With these thoughts in mind, I summarized below some of my thoughts on what I’m seeing this election season:
We spend more time talking about social justice issues than sharing Jesus. Period.
We care more about what the candidate said last night than what our pastor said regarding the Word last Sunday.
We intentionally use political bumper stickers, shirts, or hats to promote our candidate while at the same time struggling with “finding time” to share our faith. Weird.
It’s more natural to talk about the decline of the moral state of our nation than the greatness of God and what He’s done today, yesterday, or in human history. Not normal.
We can better articulate an apologetic of a particular party’s viewpoint than that of scripture. Simply tragic.
The majority of “Christian” Americans can’t Biblically defend their political views and a minority of “Christian” Americans are happy with the “lesser of two evils.”
We know more about a particular candidate than the missionaries who came out of our churches OR those we send money or physical support to. Sad. None of us will ever meet (probably) one of the two major candidates, but we know the names of their spouses, children, dogs, how much money they make, and who they associate with. Not so with our missionaries.
Friends, remember what Paul wrote to the Romans. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Rom 13:1 Before we lose our minds, remember the Bible is explicit that sin touched everything, including our government. Sin seeks to destroy, therefore things will get worse. The Good News is that God knew this and wants to save us from ourselves. He sent His only Son as this sacrifice. Isn’t that something to talk about? Take some time today to put this in perspective and pray that God would give you kingdom expansion eyes, everyday, everywhere we go.
One thing that comes natural to us is forming habits. Believers should be in the habit of fellowshipping with one another on a regular basis, but when we do this some unintended consequences may happen. One of these are our treatment of those who are new, are a guest, or are not in the habit of fellowship. Jared Wilson provides an excellent checklist over at ftc.co for churches to think about.
1. Is your church signage visible and helpful?
Clear signage tells guests and visitors where to go, what door to enter, and if they have the right church!! There is a church building near our home with no signage whatsoever outside, yet they meet regularly. Am I welcome? Is this a secret group? I don't know, there is no sign and I've never been invited!
2. Do you have greeters who are welcoming and informed about your church?
I've visited churches and the greeter not only looked upon my family with suspicion, but also honestly could not tell us where we were supposed to go. We also have visited some where we felt welcomed starting in the parking lot! Find people with a smile, place them at as many entrances as possible; even in the parking lot! Young parents love the help as they wrestle little ones into church.
3. Do you give guests unwanted attention during the service?
"Would all guests please stand so we can give you a warm welcome?" Aaaand that was the last time my parents took us to that church. It was very large and we were the only guests. We were embarrassed. People don't like to be embarrassed.
4. Are the guests being welcomed at all?
Welcome them in the parking lot and at the door. TAKE THEM to the appropriate class or ask them where they'd like to sit. Doing so tells them you don't expect them to find the class themselves and there are no "sacred seats" in the church. Welcome them from the pulpit, directing them to a guest card or registry. Give them a small gift bag or thank you of sorts as they leave. Make them feel comfortable, not pointed out.
5. Is there appropriate follow-up with guests?
Maybe they've visited a Bible study/Sunday School class or have turned in a guest card during the service. What's next? Give them a call, text, or a short visit within 24 hours thanking them for stopping by. Be ready to invite them back, to a special upcoming event, or even better; share the Gospel with them! We like to leave a copy of Good News For You! with people everywhere we go.
We are comfortable with our church family, but the guest is out of their routine and often times, out of their element. Go out of your way to make someone comfortable in your church facility just like you would a guest in your home!
In Grasping God's Word by Duvall and Hays, they provide a section on the "Basics of the Journey." This short section is extremely helpful for believers as they study God's Word for themselves. Part of being a growing Christian is learning to study and apply the truths of scripture on our own. When we have the tools to do so, not only are we blessed and growing, but we are able to pass the information on to others for live-changing effects! The basics of interpreting the Bible involve four steps according to the authors.
Step 1: Grasp the text within their (Biblical) context.
Ask yourself: "What did the text mean to the Biblical audience?" Look at the historical and literary context. Examine the grammar and all significant words. Take the time to write out a one or two sentence summary of what you've found.
Step 2: Measure the width of the river to cross.
Ask yourself: "What are the differences between the Biblical audience and us?" When we take the time to work on step #1, we realize there is a "Biblical river" between the time of the Biblical writing and our context. The authors state the width of the river depends upon each Biblical passage. The reader needs to take time to look at the Biblical culture, language, time, situation, and under which covenant the author wrote. Measuring these differences helps us in our study.
Step 3: Crossing the principlizing bridge.
Ask yourself: "What is the theological principle in this text?" Our task is not to create a theological meaning, but to allow the text to tell us what the author intended the meaning to be. Spend time looking for the differences between the context of the author and our current context. Next look for similarities. After you've done this, look for a broad theological principle within the text. This principle can serve as a bridge that can help us cross over the river of barriers. Duvall and Hays give these tips:
The principle should be reflected in the text.
The principle should be timeless and not tied to a specific situation.
The principle should not be culturally bound.
The principle should correspond to the teaching of the rest of the Scriptures.
The principle should be relevant to both the Biblical and the contemporary audience.
Take time to write out the theological principle in one or two sentences.
Step 4: Grasp the text in your context (town).
Ask yourself: "How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle in their lives?"
While each text provides only a few theological principles relevant for believers today, there are many applicational possibilities. Each person may apply the principle differently depending on our relationship with God, but the application will be applicable and relevant.
Try these steps next time you are studying God's Word! Set aside an hour or so and practice using your Bible study material, a daily devotion, or a small group study. These principles will help us enrich our own spiritual lives and will certainly help as we seek to win the lost for Christ! Remember, if you choose to follow, you will choose to fish!
J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
"It was like pounding nails into concrete!!"
This is how a friend described a meeting he had the other day with some people. He was invited to share with this group regarding a specific subject. After arriving, this group openly looked bored, allowed the noise of the busy environment overtake the training, and did not come with a heart for learning. I've taught lessons, preached sermons, and have led conferences where I felt the same way! It's depressing! Now, imagine God trying to teach you something during a quiet time, Bible study, or the like. Many times we hurry through, get the reading done, or sit idle, thinking about the roast or the game. Instead of us being open to what He wants, we allow the cares and worries of the world dictate what we will allow in rather than filtering thoughts, training, lessons, sermons, etc through the filter of the Holy Spirit. Take time ask questions, maybe out loud or in written form in your notebook. How can you apply the lesson to your life? How might you give the leader, teacher, preacher, or conference leader encouragement? Active listening makes for an active disciple! Lord help us to understand and love more than life that which You are doing through Christ Jesus.
Doing a little...
We all want to do our best for the Lord in whatever we do. When we sing, our goal is to make a joyful noise that He would delight in hearing. When we give, we want to give out of abundance, with great joy! When we fellowship, we want to enjoy one another in the Lord as He enjoys us as His children. The same applies to our time with God each day! Meeting with Him expectantly brings Him joy and us closeness to the Father.
As teachers, we understand that people are coming to class each week to not only listen to the lesson, but to participate and share what the Lord taught them that week. Here are a few ideas that can help us as we prepare our lesson for Sunday.
Read the Sunday School/Bible Study text from your own Bible. If you use a print edition, have your pen and a highlighter ready and be prepared for God to show you something you didn’t already know. You also may ask yourself questions like, “what is the context here, who wrote this material, or why was it written?”
Read the “Leader Bible Study” in the leader guide. Use a highlighter and pen to mark up some main points. Pull up the commentary from the CD included within the leader packet and briefly review the applicable material.
Re-read the text from a different translation. If the leader guide uses the HCSB, then use your favorite Bible translation, or another good modern one. Maybe you have a Bible that contains 4 versions side by side. Use this and make notations of the differences in the text.
Chose a favorite commentary to read and consider what the author has to say about the text. A simple commentary like J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible, or Matthew Henry’s Commentary is helpful. Henry’s Commentary can be bought online or utilized for free on the web.
Read and review the Bible account just like it would be presented in class. Then prepare your lesson and materials for the walls. If you use the leader’s packet, you should be getting new posters and supplemental material for each lesson. Pull down the old material in the classroom and replace it with the new material each week.
Take a day off! You’ll be refreshed and ready to go since you’ve studied a little bit all week long! 20 to 30 minutes of study a day will go a long way to teach from the overflow!
Practice a teaching plan that works for you and recognize that some classes participate more than others. Lifeway’s leader guides contain a good basic teaching plan for each lesson. Feel free to use this and adapt it as needed!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.